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February 2022

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Producer-Led Climate Policy That Works For Producers

Producer-Leader Spotlight

Jim Whitaker, RIPE steering committee member and rice farmer

Jim Whitaker smiling in field on a sunny day

Industry and community involvement: Member of the Arkansas Rice Farmers Board, and USA Rice Farmers’ conservation, sustainability and domestic promotion committees. Treasurer/secretary of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.

On the farm: Jim farms rice with his brother Sam, wife Lesli and sister-in-law Alicia near McGehee, Arkansas. The Whitakers use precision land forming, flood-control structures and other water-saving practices. Their farm won the inaugural USA Rice Sustainability Award in 2018.

What impact would the RIPE100 plan have on farmers? RIPE has the ability to help keep farmers profitable and the environment safe at the same time. We all agree that more can be done to create soil health and lower water pollution, but the American farmer needs a pathway of funding to help mitigate the risk of switching to new practices.

Why did you decide to join the RIPE steering committee? I decided to join RIPE because I believe that the American farmer can have a huge impact on climate change through sustainable/regenerative practices. Also, as a member of the USA Rice Federation, I believe the American rice farmer had a great story to tell. I’m proud to consider myself a conservationist and provide food and fiber to people around the world. USA farmers are truly leading the way with environmental stewardship. For me, joining RIPE gave me a seat at the table to help my fellow farmers shape future policy concerning climate change.

What’s your favorite movie or music artist? One of my favorite movies is “The Replacements” starring Keanu Reeves. As for music, I’m an ‘80s rock fan but one of my favorite relaxing artists is Kenny Chesney. He sings country music with an island vibe.

Learn more about Jim and other producer-leaders who guide the RIPE100 policy.

RIPE Welcomes 3rd Former USDA Leader to Team

In his most recent role at NRCS, Kevin provided oversight of the agency’s programs, technology and administrative operations. He also directed and oversaw the agency's financial and technical assistance programs in support of over 3,000 state and field operations across the United States and territories.

In a career that spanned more than 39 years with NRCS, Kevin held a variety of positions, including key roles in support of producers’ adoption and delivery of voluntary, field-based conservation. Additionally, he supported House and Senate Agriculture Committee members and staff in designing the 2014 and 2018 conservation titles of each Farm Bill.

Martin Barbre joined RIPE as Vice President of Engagement and Government Relations, and Bradley became a consultant with our organization last year. Learn about the entire RIPE staff here.

Headlines from the Hill header

RIPE tracks the Congressional policy landscape and is focused on developing key relationships with policymakers to help them create policy that works for farmers. Here are recent insights we’ve gained.

RIPE is preparing a pilot program proposal for the forthcoming USDA climate-smart commodities program intended to demonstrate the feasibility of a $100 per unit federal subsidy program that produces a reasonable return on investment for agricultural producers. With a select group of partners, the program would test and refine a simple, practical and producer-friendly program designed to incentivize widespread adoption of conservation practices. RIPE would also work with researchers to identify and quantify the climate, environmental, and economic benefits from the pilot – ensuring strong returns for taxpayers as well. If you are involved with an organization that you think might be a good fit for a pilot program, please contact us to explore a conversation. Contact Special Project Advisor Danica MacAvoy at dmacavoy@RIPEroadmap.org.

USDA advances cover crop program, still stuck in cost-share model. The initiative will set aside $38 million from existing cost-share programs to promote cover crop adoption in 11 states. At this budget level, the average funding per acre is only $2.50. And with a goal of 30 million acres, the program will reach only 8% of cropland acres by 2030. RIPE will redefine USDA programs away from cost-share toward delivering a reasonable return that reflects the total environmental value that farmers deliver.

Interest in funding conservation ag grows among Democrats and Republicans. It is critical that farmers and ranchers lead the way in shaping that interest. This would ensure that funding goes to initiatives that turn conservation ag into a profitable opportunity for producers rather than only existing programs that are stuck in cost-share restrictions or restrict participation based on prior activity.

A Closer Look at RIPE’s Qualifying Practices: Alternate Wetting and Drying for Rice

RIPE’s researchers continually work to expand the set of practices that would qualify for $100 per unit payment under the proposed RIPE100 program by collecting research that demonstrates the combined environmental value of climate-smart practices.

This month, we’re highlighting alternate wetting and drying (AWD) for rice. Compared to continuous or winter flooding, AWD reduces emissions and provides additional environmental benefits valued at $100 per acre per year.

We found that farmers who adopt AWD reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 metric tons per acre for a public value of $39 per acre. This is a large amount of GHG savings per acre! And still the practice contributes far more environmental benefit than just GHG value.

It also provides over $40 per acre in water savings and $19 per acre in water quality benefits. Review our methodology and sources for this practice here.

As we continuously add to our list of proposed qualifying practices, we welcome your input on those that are important on your farm or ranch. Our mission is to ensure that there are realistic options for all sizes and types of producers. Please respond to our brief survey to share your thoughts on qualifying practices. See the full list of RIPE’s qualifying practices here.

How RIPE100 Would Benefit All American Producers

RIPE is focused on building a program that is inclusive to all farmers and ranchers. Check out the video below to learn more about the RIPE100 policy and how it would address common barriers to entry that producers face with typical agricultural programs.

How the RIPE100 Plan is Inclusive to Benefit America's Farmers With $100 Per Acre Payments

Last month, we asked you what conservation practices you have already implemented on your farm or ranch and which ones you’d like to add with RIPE funding of $100 per acre or animal unit. Below, you can see how readers responded. Some insights are:

  • Utilizing cover crops is the most popular practice farmers want to invest in, if federal funding fairly compensated them at $100 per acre.

  • No-till and filter strips are the next most popular practices that farmers want to invest in. The lower level of interest in animal-related practices is likely due to the fact that survey respondents were mainly crop farmers. As RIPE increases access to more farmers and animal producers, we will update the results.

  • All producers who responded are using conservation practices already. Cover crops, no-till, filter strips and nutrient management are the most popular.

Chart showing what conservation practices survey respondents already have in place.
Chart showing conservation practices producers would implement with RIPE funding.

If you haven’t already weighed in, we’d love to hear from you! Click below to let us know whether you already use conservation practices, if so, which ones, and what you’d be interested in implementing with funding from the RIPE100 policy.

Start Survey
Chart shows how RIPE100 practices provide robust environmental benefits.
chart: Climate policy raises input costs

Are you interested in learning more about how to help advance this policy? Contact Ag Outreach Director Jamie Powers.

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Farmer Engagement News

RIPE in the Field

Feb. 8: Arkansas Rice Federation Annual Meeting, Jonesboro, AR - Ag Outreach Director Jamie Powers will represent RIPE on a 10 a.m. panel focused on agricultural stewardship programs and potential ways forward. If you are in town, that would be a great time to connect with us to learn more about RIPE or just say hello!

March 10-12: Commodity Classic, New Orleans - Most of the RIPE Steering Committee as well as RIPE staff and some FAN members will be in attendance. If you’re there, please come say hello at booth 3515 and learn more about our work!

You’re Invited!

Invitation for RIPE100 policy proposal webinar - Feb. 23

Stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter — and be sure to tag us in your posts with #RIPE100 so we can reshare!